By Deb Murphy
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors hasn’t taken a stand on the new Wilderness Areas proposed in the Inyo National Forest Plan, but they did approve of the process used to arrive at the initial draft.
Then, apparently under pressure to add more alternatives with new or expanded areas, the Forest Service came out with Alternative C, adding four new potential Wilderness Areas to the six already designated in the preferred Alternative B, reigniting the debate over how much is too much.
That debate started at the Board’s Jan. 19 meeting. While roads into the new areas were cherry stemmed out of Wilderness protection, Off-Highway Vehicle proponents were not happy. In addition to adding the 10-area alternative, there were confusing flaws in the maps and narratives that accompanied the revised plan.
County Planning Director Josh Hart prepared a comment letter that reflected the Supervisors frustration and confusion.
At both meetings, Fran Hunt, Sierra Club’s representative, explained that Alternative C was just that, an alternative, and perhaps the Board’s frustration was premature. “The agency is required to look at new Wilderness Areas,” she said. “There are four steps. Right now, we’re between step two and three.” Hunt indicated there was plenty of time to reflect what she described as “a negative” approach to the proposed options.
While none of Tuesday’s speakers liked the maps or the lack of definitive descriptions of the new areas, all questioned the “hostile” tone of the Board’s comment letter during what is an information gathering phase.
The Board softened the language in its written comments but not so much in spoken comments. “It’s disappointing,” said Supervisor Matt Kingsley. “The one time we complimented them (the Forest Service) on the process, they change it.”